This study for Age UK, supported by Bridge House Estates, explores older homeless people’s experiences of social isolation and pathways into loneliness, and older people’s own solutions to coping with these experiences. The study initiated the development of three new project for older people.

Aims

The research explores older people’s experiences of social isolation and loneliness; states and events throughout the life course that may contribute to loneliness; older people’s perceptions of solutions to isolation and loneliness; and barriers to alleviating isolation and loneliness.

Methods

Taking a grounded theory approach, the fieldwork for the study took place over four years (1998-02) and included in-depth interviews with 160 older people contacted through a number of housing/homelessness organisations in London, observational work at homelessness facilities and interviews with frontline workers and managers.

Findings

The research identified factors linked to loneliness which included social network deficits, life events, health factors and psychological factors. A number of physical barriers to alleviating social isolation and loneliness were identified. These include inappropriate housing and poor housing conditions, a lack of accessible transport, ineffective information and ignorance of services and community facilities, and low income. Older people identified a range of interventions to alleviate isolation and loneliness. The types of interventions wanted by older people were psychosocial interventions, meaningful activities, one-to-one company and informal support.

Impact

A major contribution to an under-researched field, the study initiated the development of three new projects aiming at reducing social isolation and improving the mental health and well-being of older homeless people and secured funding to set up and develop these projects.

Report

Willcock, K. (2004) Journeys out of loneliness: the views of older homeless people. London: Help the Aged. ISBN: 1-904528-04-X